The Lakers struck early in free agency, making one of the first moves of what has been an eventful day to nab one of the most logical players linked to them on the open market, shooting guard Wesley Matthews. Matthews will leave Milwaukee where he opted out of his contract to join the Lakers on a 1-year deal reportedly worth $3.6 million.
That $3.6 million is an important number, it equals the Bi-Annual Exception amount — a number that (maybe) should have signaled the use of the full MLE later in the evening since both on their own trigger a hard cap for the team who uses them.1It was thought earlier in the evening that the Lakers could have simply been using a part of the taxpayer MLE on Matthews, but that cannot be the case now with Harrell in the fold.
Contract minutae aside, I mentioned Matthews was the most logical player the Lakers could have signed because after trading Danny Green for Schröder, the Lakers suddenly had a need for wing defense and another perimeter shooter. Matthews doesn’t quite have the pedigree or size that Green does, but he’s from the same lineage and carries the 3&D archetype that LA was missing after sending Danny out.
In fact, when you compare their numbers from this past season, you see strikingly similar production:2These numbers are from the regular season.
- Green: 68 games, 68 starts, 24.8 minutes per game, 8.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 41.6% FG, 36.7% 3-pt FG
- Matthews: 67 games, 67 starts, 24.4 minutes per game, 7.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 39.6% FG, 36.4% 3-pt FG
Now, if I’m being honest, I think Green is the better player on both sides of the ball. Green’s still an elite help defender and, despite his up and down nature as a shooter, I think he has more gravity and has better feel moving off the ball and creating passing angles as a spot up shooter.
That said, Matthews is a wonderful facsimile at a fraction of the cost. Matthews is a good shooter, is a smart and strong defender, is competitive, tough, and will play his role without complaint. He’s not as good a help defender as Danny, but I’d argue he’s just as sturdy (if not more) at the point of attack and his ability to hold up on an island vs. bigger wings is in the same ballpark as to what Danny provided. I might argue he’s even better at that part of defense at this stage of both players’ careers.
Overall, then, there’s nothing negative to say about this signing at all. In a vacuum, I’d rather have Green but rosters don’t exist in a vacuum. Matthews can offer nearly all the offensive production, probably 80-90% of the overall defensive effectiveness as Danny, but do it at a fraction of the cost. Those savings can be used to balance out the backcourt with that larger salary going to Schröder. In the big picture, there’s a strong argument to be made that it’s a better allocation of resources to build out a more complete and offensively diverse roster.
Welcome to the Lakers, Wesley.